It’s almost New Year’s, and if you’re anything like me, you’re already starting to think about your 2017 resolution. I’ve had a checkered history with following through on my annual quests – the year I decided to read a new book every week, I knocked that goal out of the park. The year I decided to learn Bass Guitar… not so much.
This time around, my resolution for the year is “get healthy!” The only problem is that that’s kind of a crappy goal. How will I know when I’m healthy? When should I be healthy by? What does “being healthy” mean? With a flimsy, vague resolution like that, I’m setting myself up for failure.
To tune up my resolution, I’m going to need to think smart… specifically, by using SMART goal setting. SMART goal setting is a practice used to help make setting objectives more effective by making you think about what your goals are up front. SMART stands for:
Specific goals need to be able to answer all 6 of the “W” questions – Who, What, When, Where, Which and Why. Who’s involved in this goal? What needs to be accomplished? Where will this happen? When will it happen? Which methods will you use? Why are you doing it? Making sure that a goal is specific means that you have a clear-cut mission – you either do it or you don’t.
In order to measure your goal, you need to set criteria that you can track, work towards, and hold yourself to. Goals should have clear metrics for success that you can’t get away with doing halfway. For example, “I’ll run more” isn’t a measurable goal. “I’ll run two miles every two days” is measurable, which makes it a much better goal.
As much as I’d like to get absurdly fit, running 100 miles in a day just isn’t going to happen for me. It’s impractical; a goal should be something that you could reasonably complete – something that you have the willingness and ability to follow through on. Setting a goal that you’ll never be able to reach is setting yourself up for failure. Do your research and learn what’s possible before you make your goal.
Your resolution should apply to you and be something you actually want to do. It should be worthwhile to you, and you should be at a time and place in your life where it makes sense. Having a resolution to start your family is all well and good, but if you don’t have a committed partner who’s also on board, it might just not be the right time for you to chase that goal.
Every good goal needs to have a time limit, otherwise it’s easy to slip behind schedule and lose interest. Setting firm start and end dates (like January 1st to December 31st, for example) or solid timetables (like “every week,” or “every Monday, Wednesday and Friday”) for your resolution helps you put everything into context and lets you plan ahead to meet your goal.
For my resolution, I want to focus on running, since I really used to like it in college, and it was my primary workout until pretty recently. Right now, I know that my current limit is about 2 miles in a day, but I know that I’ll be able to go further eventually. I also want my schedule to be a little flexible, since I often have things going on right after work.
If I were to make a SMART goal for my fitness resolution, it would probably be something like, “I will run at least 10 miles every week, either outside or on a treadmill.” That way, I could run 2 miles each weekday until I get back into the swing of things, and gradually tweak my schedule as I get more and more of my endurance back.
If I hit 10 miles in a week, I get to feel great about myself for reaching my goal. If I don’t quite make it to 10 during the week, I can make up my mileage on Saturday or Sunday. Thanks to the 10 mile mark, I’ve got a firm goal that I’ll either succeed or fail at every week, which has always been a great motivator for me.
By using the SMART method, you can create realistic goals that motivate you and can’t be easily bent or forgotten. I know that my resolution is possible, I really do want to get back in shape, and I know that running is a workout that works for me.
Your SMART goals might look a little different than mine this New Year’s, but the important thing is to think about the SMART checklist as you plan – it helps more than you’d think. What’s SMART for you isn’t SMART for everyone else, but the checklist should help you find something that will work for you.
Photo Credit to Ron Dollete